Irv Naylor’s Amstel, always racing comfortably under Graham Watters, jumped powerfully to the lead at the last fence of the Montpelier Hunt Races’ $40,000 Noel Laing Handicap, gave up some ground on the final turn, and repelled Stooshie to win by 3¼ lengths on Saturday.
Woodslane Farm’s Pik Em, winner of the Far Hills Races’ Appleton ratings handicap on Oct. 19, closed some ground late to finish third, three-quarters of a length behind Rosbrian Farm’s Stooshie, in a field of eight.
Straylight Racing’s Invocation finished fourth, another 2¼ lengths farther back. Amschel ran the Noel Laing’s 2½-mile distance in 5:20 on turf rated as good.
Trained by Cyril Murphy, Amschel made his first appearance in a year with a sixth-place finish in the Appleton, and he clearly benefited from his comeback race in New Jersey two weeks earlier. The five-year-old carried the 158-pound co-highweight based on his three-race winning streak last year in Ireland.
He was sidelined after a third-place finish in Far Hills’ 2018 Foxbrook Champion Hurdle and passed tired horses in the Appleton, in which Stooshie finished third.
Buttonwood Farms’ All the Way Jose, ridden by Willie McCarthy, took the lead shortly after the first of 11 trips over the historic Montpelier course’s natural brush fences, with Rather Be Racing’s Kremlin and Rosbrian Farm’s Stooshie in his wake.
Watters placed Amshel in fifth position early, and he moved into the fourth spot as Mark W. Buyck Jr.’s Grade 1 winner Show Court began to back up after the seventh fence. Kremlin took the lead from All the Way Jose at the next to last fence, but Stooshie and Amschel overtook them in the run to the last.
Stooshie and Jack Doyle reached the fence with a slight advantage, but Amschel put in a strong jump for Watters and seized the lead. Amschel opened daylight on his only challenger, but he gave up some of his advantage when his mount wheeled wide into the short stretch, and Doyle took the inside path with Stooshie.
But Watters had more horse, and Amschel began to draw away in midstretch.
Pik Em, ridden by Michael Mitchell, closed ground late to claim third money. Mitchell entered the Montpelier meet with a one-race lead over Doyle in the jockey standings but was blanked for the afternoon. Doyle picked up a victory with I Am Not Here in a maiden claiming hurdle to draw into a tie.